FilmNerds presents… Back to the Movies

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One of my favorite things about movies is the way they can capture a moment in time in a way that no other art form can. It’s not just the sights, not just the sounds that make a memory. There’s an intangible quality to a human memory and nothing captures that intangible quality like a film.

It’s in that spirit that I embark on a new project here at the FilmNerds Blog, something I’m calling Back to the Movies. It’s a horribly unoriginal and cheesy title but in a way that’s what I’m going for. Much like Doc Brown’s DeLorean transported Marty McFly to another time, what I’m going to attempt with this project is to truly give myself the experience of living in another era, at least for a few hours at a time.

Here’s the deal: I’ve chosen 1983 as my destination. Each week I’ll be watching one of the Top 50 highest grossing films from 1983, counting down from 50 to 1. My hope is that after fully experiencing all of the year’s most significant box office releases, my hope is that I’ll have a better understanding of what life was like back in ’83.

Why 1983? Well, for one it’s the year I was born. I also found in looking through the history of the Academy Awards and the American box office, the early ’80s is really an area of weakness in my film knowledge base. For whatever reason, the films of that era have never attracted my attention and I hope that through this project I’ll start to get a greater appreciation of the overall evolution of American film.

A couple of notes: there are, as of now, three films from 1983’s Top 50 that are not available as rental options on Netflix, either because they are long out of print or because they have not yet been released on DVD. I will continue to search for these three films but the plan for now is to instead review another significant 1983 release outside the Top 50 in its place. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

The project will begin next week with No. 50 on the list (the Michael Caine comedy Educating Rita) but before I leave you, I wanted to mention a few of the notable films from 1983 that won’t be appearing on this project (except as possible replacements) since they did not finish in the box office Top 50 for the year.

Lone Wolf McQuade – The film that would ultimately inspire the television masterpiece that is Walker, Texas Ranger.

Deal of the Century
– Chevy Chase and Sigourney Weaver in a comedy about South American arms dealers. Can’t believe that wasn’t a slam dunk at the box office.

Bill Cosby: Himself – Classic standup routine released theatrically. The film’s success was a huge factor in Cosby landing his own television series a year later.

The Dresser
– Nominated for Best Picture and dual Best Actor nominations for Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney. Nominating two lead actors from the same film was a trend from the early ’80s I wouldn’t mind seeing again for a deserving film.

Eddie and the Cruisers – Box office flop that later gained a cult following thanks to a hit soundtrack.

The House on Sorority Row – People didn’t like it back then either.

The Hunger – Tony Scott’s directorial debut. It’s about a love triangle between a vampire couple (Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie) and a scientist (Susan Sarandon).

The Keep – An early directorial effort from Michael Mann, this critically and commercial failure was a World War II-themed horror film.

Losin’ It – Despite being eclipsed in ’83 by several other similar films, this Tom Cruise vehicle has prevailed over time as one of the best known sex comedies of the ’80s.

The Man with Two Brains – More than solid Steve Martin comedy directed by Carl Reiner.

Rumble Fish – Francis Ford Coppola wrote this gang drama while he was making his more successful 1983 hit, The Outsiders.

Sahara – Regarded as one of the biggest bombs of all time, this Brook Shields hit would later inspire the 2005 film by the same name that is now considered an even bigger box office bomb. No more movies named Sahara, people.

Strange Brew – Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas took their SCTV characters to the big screen in what has since become a cult comedy classic.

Tender Mercies – Robert Duvall won Best Actor in 1983 for his role as an alcoholic country singer. The film was also nominated for Best Picture.

Videodrome – David Cronenberg’s horrific commentary on…the media? Science? I have no idea…there’s a lot of blood.

Zelig – Woody Allen and Gordon Willis’ most impressive technical feat. Allen stars as a historical icon famous for his chameleon-like ability to change his appearance depending on who he’s around.